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Behind The Murder Curtain

Behind the Murder Curtain Special Agent Bruce Sackman Hunts Serial Killers

Reviews of this True Crime book


                                "This book will capture the attention of all possessing a pulse"

Editorial Reviews


From the Long Island Press:

From the NY Times 10/21/18


Into crime? Or at least reading about it? Try “Behind the Murder Curtain” (Post Hill Press), by Bruce Sackman, Michael Vecchione and Jerry Schmetterer, for a bizarre but true account of how a special agent for the Department of Veterans Affairs uncovered four “medical serial killers” at several Veterans Hospitals, including one in New York.

From the New York Post 9/10/18

From the Summer Edition 2018 of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association newsletter


Behind the Murder Curtain: Special Agent Bruce Sackman Hunts Doctors and Nurses Who Kill Our Veterans

by Bruce Sackman, Michael F. Vecchione, and Jerry Schmetterer 

Review by SA Shannon Woolard

Much has been reported in the news about the issues facing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Articles abound about reform, but few highlight the incredible dedication and work performed by law enforcement to curtail untoward activity ranging from fraud to murder.

“Behind the Murder Curtain” follows investigations of Medical Serial Killers conducted by the Special Agents and forensic nurses of the VA Office of Inspector General and their law enforcement partners. Bruce Sackman, former Special Agent-in-Charge, candidly walks the reader through the roadblocks experienced by his team in identifying and proving beyond a reasonable doubt that doctors such as Dr. Michael Swango and nurses like Kristin Gilbert murder their patients instead of upholding the Hippocratic Oath. The doctors and nurses featured in this book pursue careers in medicine for a variety of reasons, including the desire to inflict excruciating pain and suffering or be seen as the savior. The book focuses on Medical Serial Killers who at some point in their careers work for the government, but clearly articulates that the problem is not a unique one. Sackman recounts meeting a Scotland Yard detective who investigated Dr. Harold Shipman, ultimately responsible for killing hundreds of people. 

Sackman presents the herculean effort and time it took to find and convict Dr. Swango, who left the country for Africa to continue practicing medicine. He spells out the difficult relationships amongst various agencies in working together and offers ways to tackle investigations by addressing the most obvious crime first. Sackman’s idea to pursue Dr. Swango on fraud charges enabled him to be detained at the airport before boarding a flight for Saudi Arabia.  

After years of investigating Medical Serial Killers, Sackman developed The Red Flags Protocol, an A-Z checklist, to help hospitals and law enforcement pay attention to anomalies. It is truly unfathomable that physicians and nurses might use their positions to murder patients, but after reading “Behind the Murder Curtain” it is clear that medical professionals are on the front lines of identifying these killers.   

“Behind the Murder Curtain” is published by Post Hill Press. 


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Bob Olesh

5.0 out of 5 starsWhat Hospitals Don't Want You To Know

November 16, 2018

Format: Kindle Edition

I am a recently retired ObGyn physician and know Bruce Sackman as a childhood friend. This book accurately portrays the rare but serious wrongs that may happen in hospitals today. VA hospitals are associated with academic medical centers where doctors may rotate as students and resident physicians, in addition to university and private hospitals. Hospital administration wants to keep bad results and errors from the public. Therefore errors and bad results are handled internally by committees. Horrific occurrences, as portrayed in this book, eventually are reported to the public.
The book accurately portrays the medical schools and residency programs failure in weeding out sociopaths and monsters who shouldn't be accepted into medicine. If you need to be hospitalized it would be ideal that a friend or family member be with you in your room.
Riveting Read

This book is a riveting look at a subset of criminal activity not often discussed or even thought about – the world of the medical serial killer.  The author provides a behind-the-scenes look at not only the details of the investigative process, but also the personalities that shape each investigation.  It is a compelling, fascinating and easy read – although frightening in its content!  This is to hospitals what the movie Jaws was to beaches!  A must-read for anyone interested in criminal investigations and how that world intersects with the world of medicine.

Review written by: Crime Reader 

"As if being hospitalized wasn't traumatic enough, spend more time with the ultimate wolves in sheep's clothing—medical professionals who murder the very people they're tasked with keeping alive. Behind the Murder Curtain is a nonstop thrill ride with Special Agent Bruce Sackman, who tracks and brings these killers to justice." (Terence Winter, creator and executive producer of Boardwalk Empire)

"Special Agent Bruce Sackman looks Behind the Murder Curtain and doesn't like what he sees. Then he does something about it. An amazing look into a scary world." (Nicholas Pileggi, author of Wise Guys and Casino)

"Everyone who reads Behind the Murder Curtain will experience an epiphany about the dangers that lurk within the presumed secure environment of hospitals. For two decades, Bruce Sackman has been educating nurses about medical serial killers to improve early detection of unspeakable crimes. Bruce Sackman's shocking revelations about health care workers is a must read for forensic nurses. The motives, the murder plots and their execution masterfully unfold in this true crime story that reads like a novel." (Janet Barber Duval, MSN, RN, FAAFS, forensic nurse educator and consultant, co-author Forensic Nursing Science)

"Behind the Murder Curtain shines a light on a macabre world where we are betrayed by people we trust the most. Special Agent Bruce Sackman's groundbreaking work to bring down medical serial killers is the stuff of great detective novels but more frightening because it's true. This book may keep you awake at night, but it is worth a nightmare of two." (Rupert Holmes, multiple Tony and Edgar award-winning author of Broadway's The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Nero award-nominated Best American Mystery Novel Where the Truth Lies)

"When patients at a VA hospital are dying at an alarming rate, Special Agent Bruce Sackman is called in to find out why. What he finds Behind the Murder Curtain is the stuff of great detective fiction... but it's true!" (Otto Penzler, owner of New York's Mysterious Bookshop and editor of The Big Book of Jack the Ripper)

"Special Agent Bruce Sackman, a pioneering expert in investigating medical serial killers, provides a chilling tale of medical professionals who kill those entrusted in their care, and the Murder Curtain that protects them. Through his experience into these cases, and his dedicated service to those he himself swore to keep safe, he provides an invaluable protocol for identifying and investigating these most chilling cases, to bring to justice those who break their solemn oath." (C. Gabrielle Salfati, M.Sc. Ph.D. F.IA-IP, Professor of Psychology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Researcher and author in the field of behavioral crime scene investigation and serial homicides)

From the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association


Jeremy Christensen

5.0 out of 5 starsExcellent Read on Medical Serial Killers

October 9, 2018

Format: Hardcover

I recently attended a seminar and had the privilege of hearing Agent Sackman present on some of the material in his book. His presentation did not disappoint, and neither did the book!

Agent Sackman has written a very readable, yet technical and detailed, account of his hunt of these dangerous killers. Several cases are presented in detail, delving into a relatively unknown area of homicide investigations until now. Agent Sackman gives credit where credit is due to his fellow agents, doctors, and nurses. Above all, Agent Sackman pays tribute to the most important people mentioned in the text, his victims - all Veterans.

This was a very enjoyable read, blending both technical investigative techniques and humorous anecdotes. I would highly recommend this book to anyone in the medical or law enforcement fields, or anyone with an interest therein.

Dear Mr. Vecchione- thanks for sharing your book with me. I read it with great interest and was quite impressed with it. I was impressed mostly with the Red Flag Protocols. My only issue is that these are all looked at retrospectively - once a suspicion of a crime has already come forward. It would be very helpful if some of these criteria can be looked at in a prospective fashion at the time of starting employment.  I also agree that one of the main problems is a lack of communication between the various credentialing bodies. While I can see how this might be a problem with hospitals outside of the federal facilities, it is unacceptable among Federal facilities- ie the VA-which all share the same database among its employees. Also, I think it might be helpful to set up a course for hospital administration officials in which they are educated on RFP and do not just try to eliminate the potential bad players by removing them from their institutions rather than reporting them to a national database. I truly enjoyed your book. Feel free to contact me should you have any questions in the future

.John D'Emilia MD, FACS

From the NY Times


Into crime? Or at least reading about it? Try “Behind the Murder Curtain” (Post Hill Press), by Bruce Sackman, Michael Vecchione and Jerry Schmetterer, for a bizarre but true account of how a special agent for the Department of Veterans Affairs uncovered four “medical serial killers” at several Veterans Hospitals, including one in New York.


HI Bruce, I just finished reading “Behind the Murder Curtain” and want to complement you and your co-authors on a great read. Its compelling and informative, and I appreciate all the work you and “the angels” have done to right so many wrongs, and bring comfort and justice to victim’s families. Regrettably I won’t be able to attend the 10/25 dinner, but wish you every continued success. I’ll post a review on Amazon.

Best Regards,


Laura Hynes-Keller


Sunday I was driving to church and you know how thoughts pop into the brain.I had a quick thought combining  Dr. Michael Baden and Napoleon!!What a combo.

Anyone past 50 should have heard of Napoleon.As for Dr. Baden, former medical examiner for New York City, he is  world famous forensic pathologist.Saturday we had a Garden State Journalists Association  meeting and we had the authors of Behind The Murder Curtain, speak about serial medical killers in VA hospitals. Dr. Baden’s name popped up because now retired Federal Agent Bruce Sackman, who tracked the serial killers, told the group how much he learned from Dr. Baden, For instance, arsenic was used by one serial killer MD.To get evidence, bodies had to be exhumed and autopsied BUT Dr. Baden would first check the soil at the gravesite for “natural” arsenic which could be absorbed into the deceased, versus “induced’ arsenic.

So my mind combined these two famous names and in distant memory I believe I read  that Napoleon was possibly poisoned by arsenic.

So I Googled and found this:

From the author of The Many Deaths of Napoleon Bonaparte

 A 19th-century house was saturated in arsenic: cosmetics, hair tonic, cigarettes, sealing wax, cooking pots, insect-repellent powders, rat poison, cake icing – all were toxic. 

Later researchers tested hairs from Napoleon’s son; his first wife, the Empress Josephine; and 10 living persons, and concluded that Europeans in the early 19th century had up to 100 times more arsenic in their bodies than the average person living now. Inanimate guilty parties suddenly swarmed the crime scene. —(Nap died 1821)
Many have speculated that Napoleon was poisoned by the Brits?

But knowing  natural arsenic/mold in buildings, etc was apparently abundant in the 19th Century, interesting to speculate what a Dr. Baden would have discovered.

Achilles Schiano

 I bought a copy of your book, and have been sharing with everyone I can, as often as I am able to buy it, read it, and share about it, and, learn from what you have written well as I try to share my own experiences with the military and civilian healthcare systems. Thank you, and your colleagues for writing such a great book. I how they turn it into a movie. Have a good Pesach. Shalom Aleichem, J. O'Sullivan